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What Is A Smart Irrigation System?

What Is A Smart Irrigation System?

A couple years back I was telling my neighbor that my sprinkler system controller had died and needed to be replaced and he mentioned that I should get a smart irrigation system. While I wasn’t exactly sure what this meant, I sure liked the sound of it!

So what exactly is a “smart irrigation system”?

Smart irrigation systems make use of weather feeds or soil moisture sensors to modify a sprinkler system’s schedule. By automatically making adjustments based on seasonal or weather changes, they conserve water and prevent overwatering.

While that sounds great, so do a lot of things in practice! Let’s jump in to better understand what’s being done here as well as its pros and cons.

A Deeper Look At Smart Irrigation

Smart irrigation systems are similar to traditional irrigation systems. However, they come with added technology.

This is why it’s referred to as smart irrigation technology.

Smart irrigation refers to technology designed to help you automate your lawn care. These technologies also often connect to internet of things (IOT) devices or internet feeds to provide them with the necessary information to make informed choices.

Not only does this make them “smart”, but it also often lets you control and check in with them using your smartphone. While it varies model by model, many of these systems come with a simple app for your phone.

The beauty of this approach is that it not only allows you to access it at any time, but also ensures a pretty simple setup.

There are only so many options that you can cram into a phone app!

This is good great news for those who are less technologically inclined 😉

Water Reduction!

Not only is taking care of my lawn more convenient now, but I’m also spending less on my monthly water bill. Before it was in place, I’d simply setup the watering schedule and let it run as is.

While that saved me the effort of needing to turn it on and off for every watering, it meant that it would also run no matter what. It didn’t matter if it had rained all week or was even currently raining, those sprinklers were going to kick on!

This means that not only was my lawn and yard getting unnecessary water, but it the “dumb” system was ratcheting up my water bill and wasting water!

Traditional sprinkler systems waste, on average, up to twice as much water as modern smart irrigation systems.

Because the smart irrigation system connects to local weather feeds, it will auto-skip watering sessions if it knows that we’ve just had adequate rain.

Many also have features for auto-skip in the event of high winds when popup style sprinkler heads will be ineffective!

More advanced systems may also make use of soil sensors to detect exactly when more water is needed.

This means that I only use as much water as necessary now!

Recommended Smart Irrigation System

It didn’t take too long before I was convinced that going smart was indeed the right choice. But there were a lot of choices to pick from…

What I found after asking around was that almost EVERY single person said to get the Rachio 3. They all said it was easy to setup and worked like a dream.

Consider me sold!

I installed this unit several years ago and haven’t had a single issue with it since. My water bills went down too 🙂

Rachio 3: 8 Zone Smart Sprinkler Controller (Simple Automated Scheduling + Local Weather Intelligence. Save Water w/ Rain, Freeze & Wind Skip), App Enabled, Works w/ Alexa, Fast & Easy Install
  • WORRY-FREE WATERING - Rachio tailors your watering schedule to the specific needs of your yard and plants, providing the right amount of water no matter the landscape. Ensure a beautiful yard and lower your water bill at the same time!
  • NO MONTHLY FEES - Rachio comes complete and ready to use, without any extra charges or app subscription fees.
  • EXCLUSIVE WEATHER TECHNOLOGY - Patented Weather Intelligence automatically skips unnecessary watering with features like rain skip, wind skip, freeze skip, and more.

How Does Smart Irrigation Work?

Before you write this off as sounding too good to be true, it’s actually easier to setup in many cases than you realize!

Especially if you already have a functioning irrigation system in place, the only real change will be replacing your current “dumb” sprinkler controller with a “smart” one.

This leverages all of your current sprinkler heads, plumbing, etc… and simply adds some brains to the operation.

After following the installation instructions from the manufacture to hook it up, most have you connect it to your home WiFi. After that, you’re off and running!

It’s worth pointing out that depending on which type of technology that your smart irrigation system uses there may be slight differences to the setup.

Most Common Types of Smart Irrigation

Smart irrigation systems use one of two types of technology.

The most common type synchronizes with your smartphone to download the weather patterns. There is also a system that uses underground sensors to detect soil moisture levels.

Weather Based

With a weather-based system, you install a computer chip into your sprinkler system.

Then, synchronize the chip with your smartphone. After you synchronize your device, it allows your irrigation system to use real-time weather data.

By accessing real-time weather data, your sprinkler system won’t waste water if it is raining.

Soil Moisture Based

Soil moisture-based systems rely on sensor technology that is placed throughout the lawn.

These sensors tell your irrigation system when the lawn needs water. Then, your sprinkler system turns on!

It will stay on until the sensors tell them the lawn is at optimal moisture levels.

Advantages of Smart Irrigation

As with any technology, there are plenty of advantages to attract early adopters. Most people do not have a smart irrigation system yet. However, as with smartphones, it is only a matter of time until everyone has one.

Most people appreciate the unparalleled convenience offered by these technologies. My favorite part was the unprecedented control by connecting tp my smartphone.

#1 Automate Your Lawn’s Watering Schedule

If you are as forgetful as I am, you will probably Love automating your watering schedule as much as I do.

These systems let me set up a watering schedule for my yard. Then, I can forget about it.

#2 Stop Wasting Water

I cannot count the number of times I received a water bill that made me gasp!

Taking care of your lawn can be incredibly expensive. After installing my smart irrigation system, I have been pleasantly surprised with my water bill.

#3 Stop Over-Watering Your Plants

When I first started taking care of my lawn, I killed almost every plant in it. It turns out you need to control how much water they get.

Now, I can live stress-free because my smart irrigation system provides my lawn with optimal water supplies.

#4 Monitor It Remotely

Until recently, I never used my smartphone for much of anything. Now, I constantly use it to monitor my lawn.

This is especially helpful if you’re going to be out of town and don’t want to worry about things going wrong while you’re away!

Disadvantages of Smart Irrigation

Of course, I would be lying if I said there were not any detrimental aspects of this technology.

As you can probably tell, I am no engineer. This technology can be intricate, which means you need to be technologically literate.

#1 More Maintenance (possibly)

When I first installed the system, I thought that it was heaven on earth. Now, I understand that even though I spend less time watering the lawn, I spend more time maintaining my irrigation system.

Smart irrigation systems require more maintenance than a traditional irrigation system. Due to the intricate technologies used, mechanics may sometimes be necessary.

#2 Higher Initial Cost

It’s worth pointing out that this bit of added technology doesn’t come without a cost. Compared to traditional “dumb” sprinkler systems, a smart irrigation system will have a higher upfront cost.

This is primarily due to the components that go into the controller, but there may also be added costs if you need to install soil sensors.

Now it’s worth pointing out that you’ll recoup these costs over a couple years based on water savings. Some towns even offer rebates to incentivize their citizens to install efficient systems, so don’t write them off based on cost alone!

#3 Setup Required

Like anything else tech-related, there is some setup required. In the event that you’re not able to get things installed and configured properly on your own, you clearly won’t get the benefit from using it.

However, you’ve got several sources to work with here for help on setup:

  • Manufacture instructions
  • YouTube (this is my go-to when I get stuck nowadays!)
  • Local help e.g. handymen

Most Important Considerations When It Comes to Smart Irrigation Systems

If you own a home, you understand how important taking care of it is. Whether a smart irrigation system is worth it depends on how much you value lawn care.

I love these systems so much because even though I care about my yard, I do not enjoy yard work.

  1. As Long as They Are Affordable, It is Worth it: Money will always be an important factor. Traditional irrigation systems are more affordable than a smart irrigation system. As long as they are affordable, the upgraded systems offer enough new features for the cost to be worth it.
  2. Remember, They Need to Be Set Up Properly Before Using Them:
    In case you are as bad with smart technology as me, remember that these systems need to be set up properly. If they do not get a good initial setup, they will not produce impressive results.
  3. When You Want to Minimize the Stress of Lawn Care, They Cannot Be Beat:
    I used to constantly feel overwhelmed by the stress of taking care of my lawn. Now, I hardly even think about it unless I am in the driveway. Thanks to my smart irrigation system, lawn care is no longer a huge source of anxiety for me.

Related Resources

If you found this article helpful, make sure to also take a look at some of my other articles linked below as well!

Lindsay Reed

Hi, I'm the founder of! I created this website to be a resource for everyone who wants to make the best home possible.